July 29, 2010 § Leave a comment
J.W. Diehl Photos
Recent articles and discussions about the dangers of Internet candor are making me feel a little anxious, defensive, though as a writer I’m always revealing myself, and even when I wrote only fiction, half my readers assumed it was autobiography. They responded to my modest denials with a wink. Don’t people know one writes fiction for the same reason one reads it—to escape what really happened? Certainly, you put in bits of real stuff, like a bird making a nest, some tinfoil from the pill bottle, the razored-out spot on the blue dress, the love note your sister’s boyfriend wrote which you stole from her bedside table (an example I just invented, sis); but the nest becomes a nest, a small nest, a bird’s nest; it’s not a life.
Writing a memoir fulfilled a promise I made to myself when I was ten—a promise that shaped my life so profoundly that not to make good on it would have been just…wasteful…but it wasn’t fun. Memoirs are not histories or double-blind studies; you accept the skewed perspective of a deeply implicated actor; but still, one wrangles with truth. You want your fiction to be true (when you’re not just praying for it to be over) but in a much more expanded sense. That gives more room for play, for hours of sheer fun. Blogging is also fun; it has qualities of those conversations I hold with myself, crafting my argument minutely, pretending I’m rehearsing to speak to a certain person, who would of course be bored by my intricate weave of thus and so and because and then, all concerning some trifling event.
It’s like that and also like reading a novel where a grand old bore (resembling an ancient toad, a barbered ape or a warthog in shabby tweeds) is holding forth, and the writer describes the majestic, unrelenting waves of speech; the pop-up peregrinations; and most of all the magic circle the victim cannot leave, feet glued to the floor as she pales, flushes, sweats, endures, hears the hissing of serpents from a long-forgotten childhood dream of Hell—and you wonder how can a bore be boring when a description of boredom can be so exquisite? (Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis offers a classic example of this.) It’s like what Jerry Seinfeld said: Let’s make a show about nothing, and make it the best sitcom of all time. Not that he anticipated that perhaps, and not that my or anyone’s blogging has reached that level; still and all, I like blogging best when it starts out being about nothing and only gradually acquires shape.
This is the way writers think. If some HR person reads this and decides I can’t be trusted with children or CEOs, they’d be wrong. But I’m okay with it.
Anybody Can Write A Poem
I am arguing with an idiot online.
He says anybody can write a poem.
I say some people are afraid to speak.
I say some people are ashamed to speak.
If they said the pronoun “I”
they would find themselves floating
in the black Atlantic
and a woman would swim by, completely
dry, in a rose chiffon shirt,
until the ashamed person says her name
and the woman becomes wet and drowns
and her face turns to flayed ragged pulp,
white in the black water.
He says that he’d still write
even if someone cut off both his hands.
As if it were the hands that make a poem,
I say. I say what if someone cut out
whatever brain or gut or loin or heart
that lets you say hey, over here, listen,
I have something to tell you all,
As an example I mention my mother
who loved that I write poems
and am such a wonderful genius.
And then I delete the comment
because my mother wanted no part of this or any
argument, because “Who am I
to say whatever?”
Once on a grade school form
I entered her job as hairwasher.
She saw the form and was embarrassed and mad.
“You should have put receptionist.”
But she didn’t change it.
The last word she ever said was No.
And now here she is in my poem,
so proud of her idiot son,
who presumes to speak for a woman
who wants to tell him to shut up, but can’t.
February 20, 2009 § Leave a comment
It appears that Facebook has let go its claim to own my stuff forever, even if I quit, but as I understand it, the corporation still owns it now. And, as has been pointed out, even if they ‘erase’ the file when I exit (Can I bear to? How much in life must I renounce? ), there will always be copies. A few months ago, I was irritated that none of my friends were posting status updates that were the slightest bit interesting—nor were they responding to mine—so I said, “Margaret is trying to figure out how to dispose of the body of the man she just killed.” I expected comment. Questions. Advice. Maybe even concern that it was my own body my ghost was tasked with cleaning up before it could join the party in Hell with all the cool suicided poets and how does a ghost do that? I haven’t the faintest idea. If I were in that situation of course I would ask my friends on Facebook. Nobody said a word. They weren’t amused; they had compelling real lives; whatever. I added more friends. In actuality, there was no body (my apartment is very small, and I’m completely sure of that) so it’s unlikely I’ll be framed for murder. But what if I’m nominated to a Cabinet post someday? Wouldn’t the murky circumstances around the ‘confession’ torpedo me instantly? But wait. I don’t want a Cabinet post. I’d be the first to swear that I am utterly unqualified, unless Obama decides we need a Secretary of Imaginary Friends—in which case my murder rep would still be iffy, but I could probably explain it to House Republicans, who are well versed in creative lying, and who understand the need to do anything to get attention. They’d also be pleased that I’d require such a small budget. A token salary—100 k would do fine—and I’d create a portfolio of imaginary friends for any citizen who asked. The actual chat would be outsourced to Africa where for pennies an hour farmers, truckdrivers, unhappy wives and lonely young men would study the specs and write charming, nonsensical, and smart-assed notes on their complimentary cellphones; English speakers would be paid a bit better to translate. Update The Wall Street Journal reports some Christian parents are considering giving up Facebook for Lent! How can they do that? These are people who used to think it was silly kid stuff but now check in 20 times a day. They’ll be so lonely. The article says of one penitent, “She’s also joined an online quitting-Facebook-for-Lent support group. (Since the group is hosted on Facebook, none of the members — in theory, at least — will be logging on to comfort one another during their days of trial.)” Prayer won’t help these people. Not this year. Jesus, my angel sources tell me, was summoned by Obama for advice on the economic meltdown but Tim Geithner rejected his idea to raze the banks and re-institute barter. I think the discord upset the Stock Market, but it’s hard to tell what ails that delicate beast. It blowth where it listeth. These days our Savior is occupying himself being the ‘mutual friend’ linking Malia, Stevie Wonder, the goddess Athena (now reincarnated as a 13 year old Pakistani boy) and me. I have to say, the Son of God has access to some awesome video.
Petals on a Wet, Black Bough
—Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro”